As I’ve been receiving difficult news about my health and how it may impact my life, hopes, dreams, expectations, and abilities, I’ve been bringing my cares and losses to the Lord. In doing so, He’s brought many Scriptures to mind which now have new meaning.
2 Corinthians 6
3We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
I am happy to say that I now have a deeper understanding of what it means to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”. I’m sad about the losses in my life – there seem to be an ever-increasing number as the weeks and months continue on – and yet I’m not despairing I hurts, but I am rejoicing in the work that God is doing in my life and how I hope it will positively impact my witness and ministry to others in the future. I’m brought low emotionally, physically, and in other ways so that I can rise in praise and the knowledge that I have a glorious inheritance waiting for me in heaven. The pain draws my mind, my eyes, my heart upwards so that I see God more clearly and anticipate His plan for the present and the future with joy.
1Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,
2The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The song that rises from my grieving heart has a special sweetness that isn’t there in times of plenty, times without tears. There’s a deeper and more earnest quality to the praise that rises from the ashes and smoke. It takes more effort to sing that song, but I find it almost surprising that the effort to believe those truths in the Bible and to be convinced deep down inside of their veracity is actually not as hard as it is in the times of plenty and pleasure.
Deuteronomy 8 speaks of this very thing:
1“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. 5Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
11“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
The Lord has brought me through countless trials and losses in just 29 years, and He has humbled me (a work in progress there) and tested me through those trials. He’s also greatly provided for me. I have learned more of the fear of the Lord because of this, and I take His Word as truth now; in the past I fought against it. Now, I find comfort in it. I have faith that the Lord will bring me into a land of blessing like the Promised Land of the Israelites when it is His time.
7 Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
But I also pray that He will not allow me to forget Him when things go well and I am blessed by His hand. I’ve prayed this prayer many times, and by doing so I suspect I’ve invited additional hardships into my life because God is faithful to answer our prayers, especially as we pray for increased faith and obedience – two qualities learned by passing through flames rather than feathers.
So these trials do not take me by surprise. It is because I see that the Lord may be humbling and testing me, refining me as I’ve asked, that I am able to accept these trials with joy. Therefore, I have hope in God.
3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I have thanked God for the trials in my life, even while I’m yet grieving. He’s given me the faith to know that my hope in Him won’t be fruitless and that these pains won’t be fruitless either. It almost amazes me that I can rejoice in these losses – I’m actually rejoicing BECAUSE of these losses – and a few years ago, my heart wasn’t at the place where I could do that. After months of Bible reading and crying out to God, I’d eventually reach a place of resignation I suppose, and accept the situation for what it was. But God has worked in my heart so that I now actually thank Him for the opportunity to grow through these trials, for bringing them, though they hurt beyond words, so that He’ll accomplish His good work in me.
2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…..9Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grassc he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. 12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
1 Thess 5
16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. ….23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
I can be content rather than indifferent or cold-hearted towards the outcome of my losses. I can be content rather than living in denial about my God-given desires and lost dreams. I can be content rather than bitter. Why? Because I have a sure faith the declares the Lord loves me and all things will work out all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes…and the Holy Spirit living in me guarantees my hope of salvation and my calling in Christ, as well as my love for my God and His love for me.
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.